Grass is Grass

Whenever I think of point of view and details, I think of grass.

Grass is grass—right? We may find it more attractive when it thrives in a proper place, like a suburban lawn rather than between slabs of sidewalk. And perhaps more attractive still, when it’s carefully tended to, watered, mowed, and fertilized.

Growing up in a military family, I moved around a lot. From place to place, lawns changed. In Texas, their trimmed blades were scratchy. Lawns resembled green pot-scrubbers. In Arizona, our base-housing lawns looked inviting, but run barefoot across one, and you might hit a thorn as sharp as a dagger. Ow! In North Carolina, our grass struggled to thrive in the clay soil. In Ohio, it grew lush and soft.

But when I was fourteen, Dad hung up his uniform, and we moved to the Oregon countryside. We bought horses, and the world of grasses really transformed. From ornamentation to food. Our horses rushed to lush blades, their teeth cropping them with vigor.

I began to gauge a pasture’s appeal from a horse’s perspective. Mmm, well-watered and fetlock-high grasses. Spring grasses grew rich and inviting—but too much, too fast, could produce an aching belly. And, oh, dear, how heartbreaking; anything nibbled to dust levels or dried to hay or worse, dried to brittle, seedless stalks.

Names grew in fields—meadow fescue, perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and sweet timothy. Complexity grew, too. The best pastures offered grazers a mix of grasses and herbs. The suburban gardener might detest clover, yarrow, and dandelions but not the grazing horse.

I could go on and on about pastures—and don’t get me started about horses—but you might be asking what grass has to do with writing. It’s about learning to take a detail and detailing it.

Grass. You can allude to a season in a story by whether the grass is frost-covered, new-growth lush, or sun withered. You can describe its setting—city, suburbs, countryside—and its color and texture. And what about metaphor? What does grass mean from the perspective of suburban child, growing in friendly or unfriendly soils? A picked-over monoculture, chock full of weeds, or a bounty of nutritious and healing herbs?

Take a detail you think you know. View your “grass” from a fresh perspective. Get down on your knees and dig deeper. What’s there? Strawberries? Primroses? An orchid or mushroom? Stinging nettles or poison ivy? You may think you understand your lawns or pastures, but worlds of wildlife live below the blades of grasses and herbs, mammals, insects, spiders. Mosses, fungi, bacteria, microbes, viruses, and more. How can a fresh perspective impact your story? Its setting, conflict, or characters?